The family court determines the duration and amount of permanent spousal support by weighing 14 factors found in Family Code 4320. The weight given to any one factor is within the discretion of the court. Still, an experienced spousal support lawyer can emphasize the weight given to favorable factors and discount the importance of unfavorable factors. In light of the multifactored inquiry for permanent spousal support, the amount and duration of permanent spousal support can be heavily influenced by the advocacy of experienced counsel.
Goal of Permanent Support
The court considers the separate property of the parties to further the policy of permanent spousal support, namely the provision of financial assistance after divorce relative to the parties’ standard of living during marriage.
Parties Obligations and Assets
The court can also look into separate property held by the parties as well as their financial obligations. The court considers the separate property of a party when determining a party’s ability to pay permanent spousal support.
The court also looks into the separate property of the party requesting support. If the recipient’s separate property is sufficient for their living expenses, then no spousal support will be ordered by the court. For example, a potential recipient with separate property worth millions of dollars may be denied spousal support.
The family court is not restricted to considering only the actual income being produced by the separate property assets. The court can consider the asset’s actual and reasonable income potential as well as its total value in resolving the issue of the estate’s sufficiency for support.
Permanent Spousal Support Can Be Less Than Temporary Support
Some people are dismayed to learn that permanent spousal support can be less than temporary spousal support. The reason why permanent support is often less is twofold: (1) temporary support is the product of a formula & (2) permanent support requires evaluation of FC 4320 factors, including factors that favor reduced support. One factor in favor of reduced support is the goal that the supported spouse will become self-supporting within a reasonable time following dissolution. A competent divorce attorney for the supporting spouse can use this Gavron warning factor to advocate for reduced permanent spousal support, or at least a shorter duration of support.